HC Deb 19 May 1840 vol 54 cc314-20
Sir P. Egerton

, in rising to move the second reading of the Weaver Churches' Bill, said he had been informed that this bill was to be opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Only that his informant was worthy of all credit, he could scarcely have believed the rumour, for a bill more calculated to do unmixed good, to check demoralization, to support religion and morality among the community—a bill which ought more readily to receive the sanction of the House than the bill he held in his hand, it was not possible to find. It was a bill to enable the trustees of the river Weaver, a large and prosperous navigation, to provide the means of religious instruction in favour of a large body of men who did not belong to the country in which they lived—who were without landlords or patrons of any sort, or any one to look to for care, a class dependent upon their bodily labour entirely for their support, and who were at present shut out from all means of religious instruction. He was aware that much misrepresentation had gone forth with respect to the bill, and it being entirely of a local * The Archbishop of Dublin having incorporated his reply in his published speech, ante p. 246, we will not repeat it. nature, and one without parallel in the navigation of this country. It was about a century and a-half ago, when the Weaver was a little and unimportant stream, its geographical position connecting the county with the river Mersey, and thereby affording the means of communication and the exportation of the staple produce of the country, induced certain gentlemen of the county to think, that by the expenditure of money, it might be rendered navigable. They applied to Parliament for powers to carry their objects into execution. The money required for the purpose was no small sum, and it was subscribed by fourteen gentlemen of the county, who with a liberality which shed honour upon their memories, refused to take anything more than one per cent, above the legal interest of the money expended. In the year 1721, an application was made to Parliament for powers to make the navigation. By the bill three contractors were appointed to execute the works, who were made responsible for the body of petitioners, amounting to eighty, and power was given to levy rates, the surplus of which was to be applied to the general purposes of the county; this was the undertaking for which they originally applied to Parliament in 1721, and an act was obtained and the works proceeded. In a short time the undertakers discovered the powers obtained by the Act of Parliament were not sufficient to provide for the maintenance of the works of the navigation, as there was no provision in the act by which the property was vested in the contractors or petitioners, and the consequence was, that no redress could be obtained for injury done to the works; they, therefore, determined to apply to Parliament for increased powers. The trustees finding their powers did not enable them to fulfil the intentions of the originators of the bill, conceived themselves justified in applying anain to Parliament for an amended act, and in 1759 they obtained an amended act, but in which the constitution of the trustees were changed, the commissioners increased from 80 to 105, and the trustees empowered to discharge all duties for the maintenance of the navigation. These trustees were made responsible to the magistrates at the courts of Quarter Sessions, by being required once in every year to produce their accounts, to be by them audited or disallowed, as they should think proper. At that peroid there was great difficulty in the navigation of the river, and instead of applying to Parliament for a grant in aid of their funds, the trustees advanced the money themselves, and he would also mention, that the landowners never demanded any compensation of them for the damage done to the property on the banks of the river, which was highly creditable to their public spirit. By the care of the trustees the navigation in the course of a few years after the passing of the act of 1759, increased so considerbly that in 1788 the trustees were enabled to pay over the sum of 500l. in aid of the county funds. More than half a million had in fact been paid from this source in aid of the county funds. Now, the population along the river was yearly increasing, while no proportional provision was made for their religious instruction. Representations to that effect had been forwarded to the trustees, and it appeared that, to the scandal of the country at large, the same scenes of traffic occurred among the population in question on Sundays as on other days. The trustees then unanimously agreed to close all their works on Sundays, but it was soon found that those who wished to observe the Sabbath laboured under the peculiar difficulty that there was no facility to attend divine worship. It appeared that in several districts there was a lamentable want of the means of spiritual instruction. Whole districts were left without pastors, and those who had the care of souls could not devote their attention to those who did not come properly within the number of their flocks. The trustees in consequence called a general meeting of their body, to consider the means of remedying those evils. They then came, with but one dissentient, to the following resolution, to the effect, that the meeting consider it necessary to provide out of their revenues for church accommodation, and the religious instruction of those who were connected with the river and its traffic. A committee, however, afterwards declared that the trustees did not possess the power of providing out of their revenues for such accommodation. It was, therefore, recommended that an application should be made to Parliament for an act empowering them to apply such sums of money as might be necessary for the purpose. It was proposed that a sum of 7,000l. should be appropriated for the object in question. The resolution to that effect was carried by a majority of twenty-nine to nine. It was objected to the bill that it would increase the county-rates, but he would show the House how little foundation there was for that assertion. The commissioners proposed in the first instance to erect a church which would contain 400 free sittings, the estimated expense of which was 3,320l. They proposed to distribute that over three years at the rate of 1,106l. per an-num, and the proportion which the town rate would bear of that would not amount to one-thirteenth of a penny in the pound. They proposed also to defray all the expenses of the clergyman; and, under these circumstances, he trusted no opposition would be given to the measure. When it was considered that the trustees of this navigation had given nearly half a million of money in aid of the reduction of the rates, he was satisfied there was not a ratepayer who would refuse to advance the small sum he had stated, of the thirteenth of a penny in the pound for such an object. All he asked was permission to prove his case before a committee. The hon. Member moved the second reading of the bill.

Mr. Wilbraham moved that the bill be read a second time that day six months.

Sir H. Verney

said, he thought a more gross case of injustice to the public had never been brought before the House. Two cases had been stated—one, the case of those who desired that churches should be built, and the other the case of those who thought they ought not to be built, but the case of the public had not been stated. The case of the public was, that those who obtained benefit from the tolls were the inhabitants of the county of Chester, who ought to pay county rates. They paid no county rates at all, because the public paid more than they ought to pay in the shape of tolls. Instead of applying the surplus as proposed, a committee ought to be appointed to investigate the justice of the present law on this subject; and the inhabitants of the county of Chester ought no longer to raise a considerable sum annually, by which they were totally exempt from the rate.

Mr. E. J. Stanley

would occupy the House but a very short time. The question was, whether it was desirable that churches should be built out of the county rates. The demand for those churches did not originate with the workmen employed in the navigation, and it was opposed by men of different politics in the county. The former Member for the county opposed it as well as many others. Indeed such was the unpopularity of the bill, that no Member of the county could be found to second it, and the hon. Gentleman opposite had been obliged to resort to the knight errantry of the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford. The petitions presented that day showed the feeling of the county upon that subject. Those in favour of the bill had been few, and were not numerously signed, while those against the measure were numerous, and signed by upwards of 10,000 inhabitants of the county. He hoped hon. Members would pause before they sanctioned the principle contained in the bill, which would allow trustees to do that with the funds entrusted to them which was foreign to their trusts, and that which they could not do without the power of the House. He thought the principle a vicious one, and that the House would show their sense of it by agreeing to the amendment.

Mr. T. Egerton

begged to detain the House but for one moment. It was with pain that he stated that he could not support the second reading of the bill. He could not allow funds provided for one purpose to be diverted to another. However, he was bound to say, that the bill was not so unpopular in the county of Chester as had been stated. There was a strong feeling in the county in favour of the bill, but he could not support it, and would, therefore, not vote.

Mr. J. Jarvis

must state, in corroboration of what had fallen from the hon. Secretary for the Treasury, that the general body of the rate-payers were hostile to the bill, and every person who gave an attentive consideration to the case would see that it must be so. The real question was, whether the county-rates were now to be made liable for the rearing of churches. Such was the real question. The charges upon the Weaver were charges upon all classes of people in the country, and the county-rates must be increased in the same ratio as money would be expended on these churches. He agreed in the general proposition, that it would be well that church accommodation should be provided where it was proved that it was absolutely necessary; so also did those whom he represented, but he and they objected to take this money for such a purpose. It was therefore new to him, as a proposition of law or morality, that parties having no benefit or interest in the funds should squander or misapply them from their proper destination, without the consent of parties really interested. But the truth was that there was no necessity for churches in the district in question. On the line of the river the churches were not more than a mile from each other, and they were placed at a less distance than through the greater part of the country. Twelve churches were to be found on the line, and twenty-eight dissenting meetinghouses. The hon. Gentleman concluded by stating, that he should vote against the motion of the hon. Member for Chester.

Mr. Gaily Knight

—Sir, I regret to observe that even the Weaver churches are made a party question. I hoped it would have been one to which both sides of the House would have lent their support. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says, that if the House agrees to the second reading of this bill, all the counties in England will have to build churches out of the county-rate. But this is not the case, for the county of Chester is so peculiarly circumstanced as not to afford a precedent—for what are the facts? The county of Chester is, I believe, the only county in England which from a casual source, by a most extraordinary piece of good fortune, is almost entirely relieved from any county-rate. And the object of this bill is to provide those from whose labours the county of Chester derives this singular advantage with the opportunities of worship. What is there here in common with the other counties of England? Sir, the hon. Member for Cheshire exhorts the House not to suffer this bill to proceed for fear of establishing a principle. That is the very reason for which I hope the House will let it proceed, to establish the principle, which is the principle advocated by the promoters of this bill, that it is the bounden duty of all masters and all employers to take care of those by whose labours they profit. Sir I wish that those who oppose this bill may not have the fear of the rate-payers before their eyes rather than the fear of God. But I am convinced that if this matter were fully explained by the rate-payers of Cheshire, there would be nothing to fear from their disapprobation. The learned Serjeant to whom this case was referred gave it as his opinion that there was a strong equitable ground in favour of the objects of this bill, and I hope the House will now give that equitable ground the force of law.

Mr. Hindley

said, the case of the county of Chester seemed alone to have been considered in the debate. The case of the public appeared wholly to have been overlooked. Now he considered that the county had no right to apply the funds raised under this bill.

The House divided on the second reading Ayes 242; Noes 166: Majority 76.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Cochrane, Sir T.
Acland, Sir T. Codrington, C. W.
A'Court, Captain Colquhoun, J. C.
Adare, Lord Compton, H.
Ainsworth, P. Conolly, Col. C. M.
Alsager, Captain Cooper, E. J.
Andover, Viscount Copeland, W.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Corry, hon. H. L.
Archdall, M. Courtenay, T. P.
Ashley, Lord Cowper, hon. W.
Bagot, hon. W. Creswell, C.
Bailey, J; Crewe, Sir G.
Bailey, J., jun. Dalrymple, Sir A.
Baillie, H. J. Darby, G.
Baker, E. Darlington, Earl of
Baldwin, C. B. De Horsey, S. H.
Baring, H. B. Dottin, A. R.
Barneby, J. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Barrington, Lord Drummond, H. H.
Bateson, Sir R. Duffield, T.
Bell, M. Dugdale, W. S.
Bethell, R. Dunbar, G.
Blackburne, J. I. Duncombe, hon. W.
Blackstone, W. S. Duncombe, hon. A.
Blair, J. Duncannon, Visct.
Blakemore, R. Du Pre, G.
Blennerhasset, A. East, J. B.
Boldero, H. G. Eastnor, Visct.
Boiling, W. Eaton, R. J.
Bramston, T. W. Eliot, Lord
Broadley, H. Ellis, J.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Estcourt, T. G. B.
Brownrigg, J. S. Farnham, E. B.
Bruce, Lord E. Fector, J. M.
Bruce, C. L. C. Feilden, W.
Bruges, W. H. L. Filmer, Sir E.
Buck, L. W. Fitzalan, Lord
Buller, Sir J. B. Y. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Forester, hon. G.
Burroughes, H. N. Fox, S. L.
Campbell, Sir H. P. Fremantle, Sir T.
Canning, rt. hon. Sir S. Freshfield, J. W.
Cantilupe, Visct. Gaskell, J. M.
Cartwright, W. R. Gladstone, W
Castlereagh, Visct. Glynne, Sir S.
Chetwynd, W. Gordon, hon. W.
Cholmondeley, H. Gore, O. J. R.
Chute, W. L. W. Gore, O. W.
Clerk, Sir G. Goring, H. D.
Clive, R. H. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Granby, Marquess of Neeld, J.
Greene, T. G. Neeld, J.
Grimsditch, T. Nicholl, J.
Grimston, hon E. Noel, C. G.
Grimston, Viscount Norreys, Lord
Guest, J. J. Northland, Lord
Hale, R. B. O'Neil, J. B. R.
Halford, H. Ossulston, Lord
Hamilton, C. J. B. Packe, C. W.
Hardinge, rt. hon. Sir H. Pakington, J. S.
Hawkes, T. Palmer, R.
Hayes, Sir E. Palmer, G.
Heneage, G. W. Parker, M.
Henniker, Lord Parker, R. T.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Parker, T. A. W.
Herries, R. hon. J. C. Pechell, Capt.
Hill, Sir R. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Hinde, J. H. Pemberton, T.
Hodgson, F. Perceval, Colonel
Hodgson, R. Pigot, R.
Holmes, W. A'Court Planta, rt. hon. J.
Holmes, W. Plumptre, J. P.
Hope, C. Pollen, Sir J. W.
Hope, G. W. Powerscourt, Visct.
Hotham, Lord Praed, W. T.
Houldsworth, T. Price, Sir R.
Houston, G. Pringle, A.
Hughes, W. B. Protheroe, E.
Hutt, F. Pusey, P.
Ingestrie, Viscount Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.
Ingham, R. Richards, R.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Rolleston, Col.
Irton, S. Rose, Sir G.
Jackson, J. D. Round, C. G.
Jermyn, Earl of Round, J.
Johnstone, H. Rushbrooke, Col.
Jones, J. Rushout, G.
Kemble, H. Sandon, Lord
Kelburne, Lord Scarlett, hon. J.
Knightley, Sir C. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Lefroy, T. Sheppard, T.
Lemon, Sir C. Shirley, E. J.
Lennox, Lord A. Sibthorpe, Colonel
Liddell, hon. H. T. Sinclair Sir G.
Lincoln, Earl of Smith, A.
Litton, E. Somerset, Lord G.
Lockhart, A. M. Sotherton, T. E.
Long, W. Stanley, E.
Lowther, Colonel Stanley, Lord
Lowther, Viscount Stewart, John
Lowther, J. H. Stuart, W. V.
Lucas, E. Sturt, H. C.
Lygon, hon. General Teignmouth, Lord
Mackenzie, T. Thomas Colonel
Mackenzie, W. F. Thompson, Alderman
Mackinnon, W. A. Thornhill, G.
M'Taggart, J. Tollemache, F. J.
Mahon, Viscount Vere, Sir C. B.
Manners, Lord C. Verner, W.
Marsland, T. Vernon, G. H.
Marton, G. R. Villiers, Viscount
Mathew, G. B. Vivian, J, E.
Maunsell, T. P. Waddington, H. S.
Meynell, H. Welby, G. E.
Miles, W. Wilbraham, R. B.
Miller W. H. Williams, R.
Wilmot, Sir J. E. Young, J.
Winnington, Sir T. Young, Sir W.
Wodehouse, E.
Wood, Colonel T. TELLERS.
Wood, Colonel Egerton, Sir P. G.
Wrightson, W. Knight, H. G.
List of the NOES.
Abercromby, hn. G. R. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Acheson, Viscount Fort, J.
Adam, Adm. Sir C. French, F.
Aglionby, H. A. Gillon, W; D.
Aglionby, Major Gisborne, T.
Alston, R. Grattan, J.
Archbold, R. Grattan, H.
Baines, E. Greg, R. H.
Bannerman, A. Grieg, D.
Baring, rt. hon. F, T. Grey, rt. hon Sir C. E.
Barnard, E. G. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Barron, H. W. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Beamish, F. B. Hall, B.
Berkeley, hon. F. H. Handley, H.
Berkeley, hon. C. Hawes, B.
Bewes, T. Hawkins, J. H.
Blake, W. J. Heathcote, J.
Blewit, R. Hector, C. J.
Bridgeman, H. Hill, Lord A. M. C.
Brocklehurst, J. Hindley, C.
Brodie, W. B. Hobhouse, T. B.
Brotherton, J. Horsman, E.
Brown, R. D. Hume, J.
Buller, E. Hutchins, E. J.
Busfield, W. Hutton, R.
Callaghan, D. James, W.
Campbell, Sir J. Jervis, S.
Chalmers, P. Johnson, Gen.
Chester, H. Lambton, H.
Clay, W. Langdale, hon. C.
Clements, Viscount Langton, W. G
Clive, E. B. Lister, E. C.
Collier, J. Lynch, H. A.
Collins, W. Maher, J.
Craig, W. G. Marshall, W.
Crompton, S. Marsland, H.
Currie, R. Martin, J.
Dennistoun, J. Maule, hon. F.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. Melgund, Viscount
Divett, E. Muntz, G. F.
Duncan, Lord Murray, A.
Duncombe, T. S. Muskett, G. A.
Dundas, C. W. D. Nagle, Sir R.
Dundas, J. C. O'Brien, W. S.
Easthope, J. O'Connell, D.
Elliot, hon. J. E. O'Connell, J.
Ellice, Captain O'Connell, M. J.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. O'Connor, Don
Ellice, E. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Ellis, W. Ord, W.
Erie, W. Oswald, J.
Etwall, R. Paget, Lord A.
Euston, Earl of Paget, F.
Evans, G. Parker, J.
Evans, W. Pattison, J.
Ewart, W. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Ferguson, R. Philips, M.
Fielden, J. Philips, G. R.
Finch, F. Ponsonby, hn, C. F. A.
Pousonby, hon, J. Talbot, C. R. M.
Power, J. Tancred, H. W.
Price, Sir R. Thornely, T.
Pryme, G. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Redington, T. N. Tufnell, H.
Roche, E. B. Turner, W.
Rundle, J. Vigors, N. A.
Rutherford, R. hon. A. Walker, R.
Salwey, Colonel Wall, C. B.
Sanford, E. A. Warburton, H.
Scholefield, J. Ward, H. G.
Shiel, R. hon. R. L. White, A.
Shelburne, Earl of White, Col. H.
Smith, J. A. White, Luke
Smith, B. White, S.
Somerville, Sir W. Wilbraham, G.
Stanley, M. Williams, W. A.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Wilshere, W.
Stansfield, W. R. Wood, G. W.
Steuart, R. Wood, B.
Stock, Dr. Wyse, T.
Strangways, hon. J. Yates, J. A.
Strickland, Sir G.
Strutt, E. TELLERS.
Stuart, Lord J. Stanley, hon. F. J.
Style, Sir C. Jervis, J.

Bill read a second time.

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